Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are essential components of thriving and successful company cultures. Unfortunately, fostering an inclusive workplace can be challenging. However, building Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) can make a significant difference in creating an inclusive culture.
ERGs serve as a platform for bringing employees together to work towards shared goals, promoting diversity, building community and a sense of belonging, and empowering employees.
According to Capterra's Remote Work DEI Survey, 20% of employees disagree that their employer values different perspectives and opinions. ERGs offer a solution, and in this article, we’ll explore the different types of Employee Resource Groups that organizations can and should have and how they can make a big difference.
What is an employee resource group and why is it important?
An ERG is a group of employees who come together based on shared characteristics, interests, or experiences. ERGs are considered a DEI initiative because they provide employees with a sense of belonging and promote a diverse and inclusive culture.
Organizations that aim to build an inclusive and diverse culture can use Employee Resource Groups to achieve their goals. ERGs align with the organization's business objectives, making them valuable resources.
Studies show that approximately 90% of organizations currently have at least one ERG. Additionally, a CNBC/SurveyMonkey survey on DEI revealed that 80% of employees want to work for an organization that values diversity.
In short, Employee Resource Groups are a powerful tool for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
8 Common types of Employee Resource Groups
There are several types of Employee Resource Groups found in organizations, and each type caters to different demographics and interests.
ERGs can range from networking groups that help new employees find mentors to social clubs supporting causes important to their local communities.
Irrespective of the types of ERGs, the following are usually some of the common characteristics found in most Employee Resource Groups:
- Socioeconomic status
- Gender or sexual orientation
- Age or parental status (such as working or single mothers)
- Demographic characteristics
- Other shared interests
The following are some of the most common types of ERGs:
Identity-based ERGs or affinity groups
These ERGs are based on employees' shared characteristics, such as ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, or parental status. Identity-based ERGs provide a space for employees to connect with others who share similar lived experiences. Affinity groups can play a vital role in helping employees feel more included and valued in the workplace. For example, a women's affinity group can help women in the organization develop their skills, share their experiences, and build a network of support.
Employees form these ERGs based on shared interests, hobbies, or passions. For example, an ERG focused on sustainability can bring together employees who are passionate about environmental issues.
These ERGs are based on employees' shared job functions or career paths. For example, a sales-focused ERG can bring together employees who work in sales to share best practices, mentorship opportunities, and networking. These Employee Resource Groups are less DEI-focused and more like professional development groups (which we’ll explain more about below).
Well-being support ERGs
These ERGs provide emotional, mental, and physical support to employees who are experiencing difficult times in their personal or professional lives. For example, an ERG focused on mental health can provide resources and support to employees who are struggling with mental health issues.
Professional development groups
Professional development groups are designed to help employees develop their skills and advance their careers. These groups typically offer training, mentorship, and networking opportunities to members.
Professional development groups can be based on job function, such as a sales or marketing group, or on a particular industry, such as a technology group. These groups can help employees build their expertise, stay up-to-date on industry trends, and expand their professional network, which can lead to career advancement opportunities.
Volunteer groups are focused on giving back to the community. These groups often organize events and activities to support charities and community organizations. Volunteer groups can provide employees with a sense of purpose and fulfillment, as well as opportunities to develop new skills and build relationships outside of work. These groups can also enhance the company's reputation and contribute to its social impact.
Diversity groups are formed around the goal of promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. These groups can focus on a range of issues, such as recruitment and retention of diverse talent, bias awareness and education, and cultural competency. Diversity groups can help organizations build a more diverse and inclusive culture, which can lead to improved performance and better decision-making.
Business resource groups
Business resource groups are focused on supporting the business goals of the organization. These groups can be organized around a particular business unit, such as finance or HR, or around a particular customer or market segment. Business resource groups can help employees develop their skills and expertise in a particular area, share best practices, and collaborate on projects that support the organization's strategic objectives.
To see real-world examples of successful employee resource groups, we've detailed 10 in a seperate article.
Defining ERG leadership roles
It is important to identify how your ERG needs to work before you start asking people to take on responsibility for certain leadership roles. Without knowing the big picture of what you are trying to achieve, it will be difficult to assign tasks and make sure everyone is on the same page. Understanding the purpose and goals of your ERG will help you communicate better and delegate tasks more effectively.
Having a clear plan and purpose for your ERG will help you identify who the right people are for the job and what resources you will need to achieve your goals. It also helps to ensure that everyone involved is working together towards the same goal and that the efforts are not wasted or duplicated.
Below, we outline common ERG leadership roles. Keep in mind that for smaller organizations, all these roles will likely be wrapped up into one person’s responsibilities.
The Chairperson is responsible for leading and coordinating the ERG's activities, managing meetings, and ensuring that the group is aligned with the organization's goals and objectives.
The vice-chairperson works closely with the chairperson and supports their efforts. Also serves as a backup when the Chairperson is unavailable.
The communications lead is responsible for developing and executing the group's communication strategy, ensuring that members are well-informed and engaged.
The event lead is responsible for planning and executing events for the ERG, including social gatherings, networking events, and educational seminars. They coordinate with other departments and vendors to ensure that events are successful and ensuring that they align with the group's goals and mission.
The membership lead is responsible for recruiting and retaining members, creating a welcoming and inclusive environment, and ensuring that the group represents a diverse range of perspectives and experiences.
The mentorship lead is responsible for developing and implementing mentorship programs within the ERG, identifying potential mentors and mentees, and monitoring the progress of the program.
Diversity and Inclusion Lead
The diversity and inclusion lead is responsible for ensuring that the ERG is diverse, equitable, and inclusive and that all members feel welcome and valued. They will develop strategies for recruiting diverse members, facilitate discussions on diversity-related topics, and create programs that celebrate different cultures.
Education and Training Lead
The education and Training lead is responsible for developing and delivering training programs that align with the ERG's goals. They will identify areas where members need training, create educational resources, and organize training events.
The fundraising lead is responsible for securing funds to support the ERG's activities. They will develop fundraising strategies, identify potential sponsors, and manage the fundraising campaigns.
Volunteer Coordination Lead
The volunteer coordination lead is responsible for managing the ERG's volunteer programs. They will identify volunteer opportunities, recruit volunteers, and manage volunteer schedules. They will also work with other leaders to ensure that the ERG's volunteer programs align with its goals and mission.
By clearly defining these roles and responsibilities, ERG leaders can ensure that their group operates smoothly and effectively, achieving its goals and making a meaningful impact within the organization.
ERGs are essential for every organization. ERG goals give employees tangible objectives to strive for, which can help create a more productive and motivated workforce.
By creating a diverse and inclusive environment, organizations can attract and retain top talent and boost employee morale.
Through ERGs, employers can provide their employees with the opportunity to connect, foster relationships, and share common experiences, all of which serve to enhance a more inclusive company culture, and it’s a win-win for everyone.
If you’re ready to take your ERG to the next level, consider starting an internal mentoring program that connects leaders with ERG members. Use Together Platform to seamlessly connect members via mentorship — by ensuring that members are matched with relevant mentors determined by the skills and experiences they want to advance in their careers.